Architect Andrew Finch and lighting designer Carol dePelecyn made the most of the tricky lot and their tricky budget to concoct a narrow, four-story house on the western edge of West Seattle.
IT PAYS to walk the dog.
“We’d been eyeing this street for a long time, and I happened upon this lot moments after the sign went into the ground,” says Andrew Finch, recalling days of yore when the market was hot and the competition hotter, 2007.
“It was a dog-walk discovery.”
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Although Finch and his wife, Carol dePelecyn, bought the land at the pinnacle of price, they are clever and professionally trained in the art of homebuilding and design; he is an architect/contractor and the Finch in Finch Design & Production; she is a lighting designer/artist and the dePelecyn in dePelecyn Studio.
And so, a morning spent over tea and sin, in the form of Bakery Nouveau croissants, includes conversation like so: “One third of your budget goes into the ground on critical slope.”
Finch says this, standing in their warm and contemporary kitchen/living room, because we are high in the air on the western edge of West Seattle. If an eagle were perched on any of the treetops we would know of it. This a mere few steps past the koi pond at the street-side front door. DePelecyn calls it the Sky House.
The couple made the most of the tricky lot and their tricky budget to concoct a narrow, four-story house that follows the bluff down. They wanted a place where they could work and live. On the fourth floor is Finch Design & Production, on the ground floor is dePelecyn Studio. The living goes on in between.
“We can preserve the marriage with two floors between us,” dePelecyn says. She’s laughing, a little. The businesses are linked by a bamboo-and-steel staircase. Koda, the friendly family Malamute, commutes between the two.
“It was a dream I had since high school,” Finch says of his desire to build his own home, to which they moved in 2008.
Everywhere is a melding of art and architecture, color and form, light and texture. Finch was a ceramic major in college with a short stop as a glass blower. DePelecyn recently completed work on a public-art installation at the South Park transfer station involving lighting large pieces of the old First Avenue South Bridge.
But do not be fooled. This is not a haughty home. Finch and dePelecyn are dog people who let the fur fly where it may. It is the combination of their talents, Koda, and the water and trees beyond that make this house a home.
“If it’s beautiful and people don’t know why, it’s the lighting,” dePelecyn says, offering trade secrets. “I used to be a dancer. I could feel the light. I was on stage in the light. It really sculpts the body. And good light brings that to life.”
The couple, who came from a living space so small the bedrooms held only double beds, previously owned all the furniture in this house. But they didn’t need much, because the home has many built-in pieces.
Just off the main living space is a high-hanging deck, something Finch included for his wife, who calls herself “the client” in this case. “I wanted a pier going out to the sky,” she says.
The project was all-consuming but went well, for the most part. “We did argue over paint,” Finch says. He wanted white. She did not.
“He pointed out to me that if we used white it’d make all the colors pop. So I looked for a white to reflect the color back. And this color is highly reflective of many hues (a custom blend from Daly’s C2 line).
“That’s what you get when you have two designers talking about color.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific Northwest magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.